The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Sh300,000 Fine to Deter SIM Card Abuse

If your SIM card is not registered you will have to pay a Sh300,000 fine or go to jail for three years.

The penalty are among tough new regulations that will come into effect tomorrow through a Kenya Gazette notice.

The regulations, announced by Information permanent secretary Bitange also apply to mobile networks. They will empower the Communications Commission of Kenya to prosecute both mobile networks and individuals for each unregistered line in use.

The deadline for SIM card registration elapsed on December 31, 2012, after which the four mobile networks were supposed to deactivate unregistered lines.

"The law is there now and the consequences are severe. Mobile phone network operators not enforcing the switch-off will be penalised for every unregistered SIM card. The same applies to individuals," Ndemo said during a press conference.

CCK data released on Friday, December 28, 2012 indicated there are over six million unregistered Subscriber Identification Modules - also known as SIM cards - used in mobile phone handsets, tablets and modems.

Was the CCK to make good its threat and only enforce the regulations mobile network operators alone would have to pay about Sh1.8 trillion in fines--more than the 2012/13 budget.

"The figures may have improved since Friday... but all these unregistered SIMs must be accounted for. So there is no cause for celebration for those subscribers yet to be deactivated because penalties will also apply to individuals," said Mutua Muthusi, CCK's director for consumer and public affairs.

Dominant player Safaricom had the most unregistered SIM cards at 2.9 million. Orange had 1.2 million unregistered lines, while Essar's yU Mobile and Airtel had 1.1 million and 822,526 respectively.

There are 30.8 million subscribers in the country with 19.6 per cent of them (six million) who are yet to register their sim cards.

It has also emerged that some mobile network operators are "misleading the public that registration is just for money transfer services", while one operator has been noted to continue selling unregistered SIMs despite the ban, according to Ndemo.

"We have until Friday to let everyone understand the consequences. Every operator must know who holds their numbers; they need to know who they are doing business with. Operators allowing use of unregistered lines will be prosecuted for 'intermediary liability' as accomplices in abetting crime," he said.

The Ministry of Information and Communications and CCK will tomorrow meet the operators "to warn them" on the consequences of not effecting the switch-off or accounting for identities of all subscribers in their networks.

The new regulations, Ndemo said, will also avert any tendencies by operators to bloat subscriber numbers when filing quarterly compliance reports. He said registration of SIMs will also make it easy for users to trace lost lines that may be in use unlawfully.

Subscribers will also be required to inform network operators within 30 days whenever their identification details - such as name, ID number, gender, physical address, work permit number for foreigners, and so on - change.

Operators are barred from disclosing personal details of subscribers without their consent, unless facilitating the CCK, aiding investigation of criminal offence, or for purpose of civil proceedings.

Operators are required to ensure all subscribers in their networks are registered within 30 days from tomorrow, but unregistered lines are technically supposed to remain deactivated since January 1.

Unregistered lines will be available for re-sale within 90 days after being deactivated. Those registered with false information will also be deactivated where the CCK or network operator establishes falsehood.

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